Rewriting the Code: Software Professionals and the Reconstitution of Indian Middle Class Identity

Publication Type:

Book Chapters


Carol Upadhya


Patterns of middle class consumption in India and China, Sage, New Delhi, p.55–87 (2008)



The Indian software outsourcing industry has grown rapidly over the last decade or two, and has produced a fairly large population of ?information technology (IT) professionals? who can be said to constitute a new and socially significant segment of the ?new middle classes? in India. Software professionals have a social and symbolic significance beyond their numbers (now approaching one million, according to official figures), for several reasons: they earn salaries that are much higher than other professional/technical/managerial employees with comparable educational qualifications, and so command high disposable incomes; their work is ?global? in the sense that they primarily work for customers located abroad and their work involves frequent travel to other countries; and as the key ?resource? for an industry that claims to have put India on the global economic map, they partake of the hype and the hope that has been created about the IT industry by the media, the state and the IT business class.2 While software professionals and others employed in the IT industry are hardly representative of the much larger and broader ?Indian middle class? (howsoever this contested term may be defined), they are a crucial subject for study if one is attempting to understand contemporary social transformations in India under conditions of globalization. This is especially so because of the unique place that IT professionals hold in the social imagery of the middle classes as harbingers of the nation?s future in the now promising era of liberalization.3 As such, they may constitute the vanguard of a ?cultural revolution? within the middle class, or at least provide pointers to the ways in which the middle class is reconstituting itself in contemporary India.


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